Monday, February 28, 2011

Narrow interests and Universal values

Times are tough in the world. The banking collapse has brought serious problems in the global flows of money, while the huge growth in Asia has put serious pressure on the price of commodities and energy, especially oil. Global food prices have been rising sharply as the result of several extreme weather events. Indeed this spike in food prices has clearly been a factor in the North African Arab revolt.

Even still it is a bit disappointing seeing the English Language press being so down-beat about the events in Libya. Instead of being inspired by the determination of the Libyan people to rid themselves of their vile dictator, there are endless articles about the "terror" of the expats and the fact that the oil price has been rising as a result.

Frankly a short term oil spike is a price well worth paying in order to get the Libyan people free from their bondage, and anyway, foreigners do not seem to have been the target of either side. It is not the expats who have been targeted by the desperate despot, but his own people. The courage and ingenuity that the Libyan people are showing is truly heroic. This is not a revolution in support of the Al Qaida death cult but in support of the Western values of democracy and mutual respect.

Instead of bemoaning the short term problems, we should be cheering on the Arab world as it finally unites in support of a more open and open minded political system. We should have the courage that our universal values are truly stronger and more attractive than either the oppression of dictatorship or the millenarian nonsense of the primitive fanatics. The peoples of North Africa are speaking the language of democracy and in the liberated areas of Cyrenaica and Tripolitania it seems to be the practice too, with citizens councils emerging to restore normal life. The restoration of the flow of Libyan oil would be set to be quite rapid- were it not for the fact that all the foreigners involved have run away.

What does it say about too many in the west that we would prefer the -as it turned out shallow rooted- "stability" of the criminal Gadaffi to the liberation of his people- for surely that is the message we are giving for as long as we are prepared to leave the Libyans to their fate at the hands of a regime which is now irretrievably lost.

The sacrifices that the Libyan people are making for their freedom are a noble message of determination to achieve the freedoms that we take for granted. We should be proud and delighted that democracy may yet set free the Arabs. This is not a moment for fear- it is a moment to embrace those who are seeking to build a new, tolerant, free and democratic system on the wreckage of the discredited dictatorships of the past. The revolutions 20 years ago in Central and Eastern Europe were not universally successful- at least not in Russia or the Stans, yet for most even there, they have unleashed undreamed of freedom and prosperity. There is no reason why that can not happen to the Arab world as well.

The West should embrace these revolutions, as the Chinese Government- fearfully- can not. We should remind ourselves that, for all its faults, the democratic way offers far more to satisfy the human spirit than the authoritarianism of autocrat, or of party, or of radical mosque ever could.

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